Background: Inherited risk accounts for only 5-10% of breast cancers; furthermore, there is growing evidence regarding strategies for reduction of risk for breast cancer through primary prevention, including healthful diet, physical activity and body size, avoidance of alcohol and possibly tobacco, and breast feeding when possible. Although the median age of breast cancer diagnosis is 61, and there are likely unidentified critical time periods for each exposure, women may benefit most by establishing healthful behaviors early in life and maintaining them across adulthood. However, it is not well known how breast cancer risk and prevention is presented to young women, and how sources such as the media influence susceptibility, self-efficacy, and preventive behaviors, especially across diverse groups.

Approach: Within a multiphase exploratory study, we analyzed a purposive sample of 79 examples from 2003-2017, U.S. and international English language print news, popular press, and websites targeted to young women from diverse ethnic and sexual identity backgrounds. Stories were coded, using both structured codes and qualitative memoing methods. Here, we focus on the extent to which news and popular stories contained messages congruent with prevention recommendations.

Results: Our sample of stories included 43 from 29 different standard news sources, 32 from 10 popular magazines, and 1 from each of 4 websites. Stories appeared in both general-audience as well as ethnically targeted media, including O, Jet, Korean Times, and Philippines Today. Thirty-four percent of stories featured a personal narrative from someone experiencing breast cancer, or at risk, and celebrities were mentioned or quoted in 9% of stories. Groups mentioned for excess risk most often were those with family histories (19% of stories), followed by African-Americans (15%), poor women (14%), Latina women (10%), and Asian women (9%). Excess risk for LGBT women was mentioned in only 4% of stories.

Forty three percent of stories had a positive prevention and/or survivorship tone, and only 15% had fear-inducing or fatalistic content without any actionable prevention recommendations. The top prevention strategies mentioned included diet (24%), exercise (22%), avoiding overweight/staying lean (22%), learning family history (20%), and limiting alcohol intake (19%). However, despite this generally positive content, our qualitative content analysis found that stories also tended to overemphasize young-onset breast cancers, without clarifying the age distribution of the disease, emphasized mammography screening and secondary over primary prevention, overemphasized hereditary risk, highlighted race-based differences, and contained frequent mentions of “magic bullet” prevention approaches, such as specific foods and supplements, rather than broader dietary strategies.

Findings point to many areas for improved cancer prevention communication tailored to young women. Given the frequent coverage of breast cancer in media geared to this audience, more effort should be made by cancer prevention scientists to improve messages regarding prevention. We are currently using this content with diverse groups of young women in focus groups, to better understand interpretation of these messages by the target audiences.

Citation Format: Ann Carroll klassen, Amy Leader, Ana Martinez-Donate, Augusta Villanueva, Suzanne Grossman, Udara Perera, Tashi Lhamo, HeeSoon Juon. News they can use? The portrayal of breast cancer risk and prevention in print news and popular press for young women [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Tenth AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved; 2017 Sep 25-28; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2018;27(7 Suppl):Abstract nr B02.